Monday, 12 October 2015
The Intern (4 Stars)
Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) worked for 40 years in a company that printed phone books, for many years as a chief executive. At 65 he retired, shortly after the death of his wife. He is trying to remain active, keeping a regular daily schedule, getting up at the same time every day and doing Tai Chi in the park, but he feels something is missing. He needs a purpose in his life.
He replies to an advertisement for an internship at an e-commerce company, About A Fit, that sells clothing online. He's assigned as the personal assistant to the company's owner/founder, Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). The film's humour comes from the contrast between the two characters. Jules is a highly focused executive who has neglected her family to build a company up from nothing to 220 employees in 18 months. Her unorthodox leadership methods (which seem to be a parody of other successful company founders like Steve Jobs) clash with Ben's efficient common-sense style. Ben's lack of knowledge of the Internet age is presented humorously, especially in the opening sequences, contrasted with his younger colleagues' lack of knowledge of the pre-Internet age. For instance, Ben has to explain why people needed phone books. "Can't you just use Google?" It's a clash of two worlds.
The film has a very simple story, which has been criticised by other reviewers, but I consider that to be the film's strength. The film is character driven. It would have failed with lesser actors than Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. They're so charming, both individually and in their interaction with one another, that we can't help but take them into our hearts. The same can be said of the minor characters, such as the other interns and Jules' secretary. The masterful directing by Nancy Meyers introduces the characters to us one by one, giving us enough details to know who they are, so that none of them are blanks. The only person I dislike in the film is Jules' husband Matt, who comes across as a creepy, over-polite character from the first time he appears on screen. Jules could do better than that!
The film has a multitude of sub-plots going on, which I won't describe in detail here. Spoilers! I'm not sure whether that's an advantage or a disadvantage. On the one hand they distract from the main story, but it's these very sub-plots that describe the minor characters to us. Ben's romance with the company's massage therapist seems unnecessary, but I understand why it was added. Without this romance the viewer might have suspected a romantic attachment between Ben and Jules, which the director wanted to avoid at all costs.
This is a charming feel-good movie. It's not a chick flick, it's a film for everyone. It's definitely a film that I want to watch again and ponder in more detail.